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Sunday, December 03, 2023
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Rebuilding the Lines of Communication: Post Fall Fest Announcement

Student Association reaching out to students

UB wanted Drake.

Instead, it gets The Fray.

According to survey results from the Student Association, Drake should be the student choice for Fall Fest after he gained 1,285, or 42.8 percent, of about 3,000 undergraduate votes.

The Fray, on the other hand, was eighth on the list of 19 acts, after receiving 565, or 18.3 percent, of student votes. Even though the band wasn't the top choice, it became the "student choice" for this year's Fall Fest, along with The White Panda and 2AM Club.

The Survey

As The Spectrum reported on Monday, 75 percent of students that posted on SA's Facebook after the announcement responded negatively to the decision.

Yet, only 3,000 out of UB's nearly 18,000 undergraduate students took the time to vote – only 16 percent in fact.

The survey for Fall Fest was sent out via email to all undergraduate students on June 22 and was made available to all students on SA's Facebook page.

Among the questions, SA asked what genre of show students preferred (a mixed show of hip-hop and rock, with 25.4 percent of votes), how many artists the show should feature (three, according to 41.7 percent of votes), and if students would attend an off-site Fall Fest (41.4 percent of students said yes and 37.7 percent said yes, if transportation was provided).

But, the main question remained: who to bring as a headliner?

"I transferred from Brockport and what they do is put out a survey [for their concerts] and whoever is number one is who you go after," said Monique Mattes, the entertainment director for SA. "And that's something I want to implement here but because of the timing of all this, I wanted to see how it worked for Fall Fest and at least get ideas."

The list was compiled by Brandon Davis, SA's former talent coordinator, and he looked at what acts were possible budget-wise, and whether or not they were touring at the time. Davis left his position at SA on the first day of the fall semester, for unrelated reasons. Cory Riskin, the assistant talent coordinator, has worked to fill the gap and works with the talent SA signs.

The list included 19 acts for students to choose from and asked students to rank acts from their top choice to their fourth choice – a total of four votes per student in the headliner category.

The top eight choices, according to student votes, respectively: Drake, Nicki Minaj, Maroon 5, MGMT, Deadmau5, Snoop Dogg, Trey Songz, and The Fray.

The results and the actions

According to Mattes, Drake was attainable and within SA's budget – he just wasn't available on the Fest dates given to the SA by university officials.

"The problem was that we knew we weren't having an outside concert [open to the public] – it was going to be limited to 6,000 students," Mattes said. "We didn't think it was fair for the amount of money that we would be paying [Drake] to limit it to only 6,000 students."

Nicki Minaj, after more research, was out of SA's budget range. Mattes recognized the error, and conceded that the female performer shouldn't have been on the list.

Maroon 5, MGMT, Deadmau5, and Trey Songz were all artists that were unavailable to perform once dates were finalized.

Snoop Dogg, the No. 6 choice, played at a fest in 2007 – something that was problematic for the event planning: he was crossed off as a potential act.

SA doesn't want to feature the same artists more than one time in a four-year period because students are generally here for four years, according to SA President JoAnna Datz.

After SA pursued the first seven options, The Fray was next in line and was the first act that was able to comply

Fall Fest – according to the university

"There's probably a dozen to two dozen departments, at UB and outside companies, involved in throwing every fest," said Chris Noll, senior production manager for SA. "To most students on campus, Fest is a one-day show. To production guys it's two to three months lead-up work and the show is actually three days."

Noll went on to explain the three days of the show – load in day, the day of the show, and move out day. This three-day period allows leeway and time for all those involved to get the things done that make the show run smoothly.

The university controls the date of the show – SA uses university facilities for the show and, in turn, must comply with the dates offered to it. Unfortunately, Alumni Arena, the location reserved usually for rain dates for the event, was being renovated at the beginning of the semester. The projected end date for the project was the beginning of October and until the end date, the main gym—where the concert would be held—was unusable.

"A lot of students have asked why aren't we doing it at Baird Point? You need a rain location. Baird Point, I don't know if you guys have walked through after it's rained a tiny bit, but it becomes a mud pit," Noll said. "If they say the beginning of October [for the end of the renovations] and the project overruns slightly, we have all these artists booked and the show can't happen. No one wins. So we had to hold off and now you're in the main gym that athletics uses."

Not only does SA struggle with getting dates from University Facilities, it also struggles with making each sect of a 14-part event planning board agree on a date, according to Datz. This board includes the University Police Department, Campus Dining and Shops, Parking and Transportation Services – just to name a few. Without the unanimous agreement of all parties, planning stages for fests and other events cannot even begin to take place.

"Out of those fourteen departments that we sat down with, one person said no," said Sikander Khan, SA's treasurer. "So we had to move [Fall Fest] to Oct. 20. Otherwise we could've had fest on a different day."

According to Mattes, UPD was the one department that had a problem with the original projected date of Friday, Oct. 21. Because a football game falls on the Saturday directly after the original date, that Friday was not feasible.

"It was a late notice for us and we have a football game at 12 o'clock in the morning on the next day," said Gerald W. Schoenle, chief of police. "We would have a hard time trying to staff something when we have to give our officers eight hours off for rest. As you can imagine, for a major event, we have lots of people that are working, and our policy requires us to give them a rest in between shifts, unless there is an emergency."

Announcements—too late or too soon?

The SA received a list of possible event dates from the university in early July, which really limited the timeframe officials had to plan the event, according to Mattes. She went on to say that it's impossible to start booking artists without having dates.

SA planners are unable to pitch the event to potential performers unless they have an exact date and time; this eliminates any potential artists from agreeing to perform and then having to back out due to conflict because the date wasn't concrete.

Once Mattes had dates in hand, she and her team began to go after what artists were listed as the top choices by student votes.

According to Matt Solomon, marketing director for SA and the person in control of fest announcements, he made the decision to announce Fall Fest acts on Friday, Sept. 30 at 5 p.m., based on all the many factors that play into the planning of the event. "Working with the production managers of the band, we have certain things we're allowed to do and certain things we're not allowed to do," Solomon said. "So from a strategic stand point, that's when I, as a marketing director, and my team thought it was the best time to release it. I still feel good about it."

Noll went on to elaborate that because SA cannot announce an act before having a signed contract in hand, SA officials chose that day and time as the best possible timeframe for the announcement.

SA was in negotiations with the supporting acts until 3 p.m. last Friday, according to Kahn, and officials made the decision to hold off the announcement until those negotiations were final.

"We had the headliner; we actually had confirmation that week that we could announce the day, but we wanted the supporting acts as well," Mattes said. "JoAnna [Datz] actually made a good point of what's the point of announcing a date and the headliner when that's kind of basically the hype."

How your student activity fee funds Fest

Each year, a portion of the student activity fee each student pays as a part of his or her tuition, goes directly to funding both Fall and Spring Fests. The budget for SA events, including Fests, is posted in its entirety on SA's website.

This year, SA is spending $150,000 on its headliner. According to Solomon, due to contractual reasons, SA cannot release individual artist budgets and lists only "fall fest-artist" on the line allocated in budget charts.

The supporting acts are receiving a total of $20,000 – altogether $170,000 is spent on talent for this year.

Drake, for example, was a little bit more expensive than SA's budget, but Mattes and her team were willing to pay that cost because he brings supporting acts with him as part of a package deal. Drake costs $172,021 per show, according to Pollstar, the entertainment company SA uses to contact potential artists.

Production costs add up to $139,732 out of a possible budget of $250,000 – SA will have $110,268 left over after this fest to spend on other events, such as Spring Fest next semester.

"Our budget for talent, for Fall Fest and Spring Fest, is in one line," Datz said. "We could have split it down the middle and equated it equally. We did not use the full 50 percent for Fall Fest, close to it, but there still is now some spillover that we can allocate to Spring Fest to make it a big show."

Another sect of Fest budget is the Fest "personnel" budget. SA sets aside money to pay for unexpected personnel costs – quite simply, a "rainy day" fund regardless of the event, according to Kahn. This $404,000 that is set aside is used throughout the year, whenever need arises, and has no specific target end.

Without personnel costs, Fall Fest would cost roughly $16.56 per undergraduate student.

Fests in the future

Mattes and her team plan to take the survey used for Fall Fest to the next level for future Fests and events. Improved contact with students, more rules and regulations governing the survey, and increased attention to who is available, are all aspects that Mattes and SA started working on for future surveys.

"I don't know the best way to work out a survey with the university, but once I work out the best way to make it so that students can actually log in, it will get sent out to you," Mattes said. "Whoever you guys pick as number one, that's who we're going after. Obviously we're going to do our research and make sure it's within our budget range and we can see if their dates are right around when our Fest is, and that was the goal of this."

Mattes went on to stress that the student voices, in line with the VOICE party's mantra, fuels everything she and her team does. The more students that fill out the surveys the better, and SA can work more effectively to meet the needs and desires of the student population.

"That's our main goal, to make sure the students are happy and not everybody is going to be happy," Solomon said. "But by communicating with us, talking to us on Facebook, and complaining to us, that's perfect because now we can move things."

Additional reporting by Jameson Butler, Madeleine Burns, Matthew Parrino, and Steven Wrobel.




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